Sunday, May 29, 2016

A Global Big Day

On Saturday, Ms. Muriel invited me to go birding with her.  She was on a trek to find several life birds, the Rufous-capped Warbler and Red-headed Woodpecker.  Both were in remote locations.  So I brought along my water pack for an epic journey into some of Southern Arizona's most beautiful places, Hunter and Gardner Canyons. 

Our first trek was a steep one into Hunter Canyon. Muriel was hoping to find her first ever Rufous-capped Warbler.  Now you all know that I've been casually looking for this bird on several treks this year to mostly study the kind of habitat this warbler prefers. 

Western Tanager
The hike was gorgeous but a killer as we crawled our way up the mountain side. With a fully charged water pack, several pound camera, and binos around the neck, it can make a hike difficult. The key these days for rare birds is documentation. And that requires equipment.  So what would we find?

I was confident we'd find the bird but I wasn't going to say it outloud.  That would jinx the find and leave Muriel sans a life bird.  Patience and knowing where to look was key......

Cordilleran Flycatcher
 Along the way, we enjoyed observing many of the more common birds.  Once we reached the stream near the hillside, I knew we were in the right spot. It took time and the recognition of the call to get our eyes on the bird.  One called from within the New Mexican Locust bushes/trees on the hillside.  We followed the call until.....

Rufous-capped Warbler
.....the warbler made an appearance. Muriel was so excited as was I.  With the adrenaline rush, we decided to go for another lifer, a rare migrating Red-headed Woodpecker in Gardner Canyon. 

Western Kingbird
We followed the directions carefully as we entered Gardner Canyon.  Muriel is excellent with such things.  I am not.  But thankfully, several birders put in their notes that a nesting pair of Red-tailed Hawks had several young.  Within moments of parking the vehicle, I could hear them calling.  It's like playing detective.  That's part of the fun....or frustration.  Several guys were camping out and we asked them if they had seen a bunch of weird birder people come through the area and they replied..."Why yes."  

Curious Red-tailed Hawk babies....CUTE!
We followed the stream past the very vocal hawk babies into a campground.  Muriel pointed to a tree and said, "Oh my gosh! There it is!"  A white flash flew before our very eyes.  What a gorgeous bird!

Then we waited to see if the bird would make a closer appearance.  So we sat down on a log. What a beautiful place to camp! Soon another birder, Ms. Janine McCabe, strolled quietly along the dirt road.  She does that.  Secretive and almost appearing out of nowhere.  Is she human?  Yes.  Does she possess magical bird powers?  Yes.  She's one of the fun Arizona birders.

Red-headed Woodpecker
As she stepped onto the scene, the woodpecker flew above our heads and there were many "ooo's and ahhhh's".  This time we both had a lifer and it was exciting!

We celebrate our lifer at Gardner Canyon.  That's a terrible pic of me with a really bad cheesy smile.  My Grandma would not approve.  As for Muriel, well I don't think she takes a bad pic at all.  She's classy even after a day of birding.  Me on the other hand.....I need a hair cut. 
We were on a roll.  So we decided to explore, the Cienagas grasslands nearby.  A storm began to blow into the area. 

Eastern Meadowlark(Lillian's Subspecies)
The winds picked up.  But the birds were active!

So were the Black-tailed Prairie Dogs!

To finish off our day, I knew of a spot where there was a Western Screech-Owl hanging out.  We went to the spot and there he was.  And I do believe it is a "HE".  There is a nesting box nearby and this is the time of year when their young have hatched.  Dad doesn't fit in the box SO he gets the boot.  Anyhow, it was the cherry on top of our banana split.  Or in plain English, a great way to end our big Global Day.  

While we were having fun, we were also helping add data to the global network of bird species! For lots of pretty pics and info, here are our reports. Hunter Canyon. Gardner Canyon. Ciénagas Grasslands. And the San Pedro Riparian Area. I love birding with Muriel. She is one of the kindest people you'll ever meet. Thank you Muriel for the invite! We'll be owling on our next trek with a new face AND a familiar one.  Stay tuned for more!  

Red-tailed Hawk


  1. Sounds like a great birding day for you and your friend... Next time though, when looking for a Red Headed Woodpecker, just come to my house... They come to my bird feeders....


  2. A smily day ahead of me after reading this post.

  3. I feel so exited for the 2 of you when you found those birds you were looking for. MArvellous detective work and ovely shots.

  4. What a wonderful day out - so pleased you saw so many of your target birds :) Great photos as always! Have a good week.

  5. Wow!! So many fantastic looking birds. Great images.

  6. What a great day you both had.


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